“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #11

by mshrm

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian-swashbuckler, team player, and the cavalry (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, sewer troll hired for the dance of his people (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bard-wizard who needs to work on his situational awareness (PC)
  • Needles, rogue and trainer of new hires (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout who only seems to be remarkably curious (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s dedicated goblin man-servant, keeper of the stables (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s serious young apprentice (NPC henchman)
  • Brother Farooq, medic, priest, and light buffet, in the right circumstances (NPC hireling)

Sadly absent:

  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, pirate swashbuckler who may or may not have re-grown all the bones in her right arm (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

Jed picked up some news from back home in the old country:

  • An account of Tembladera’s history with the so-called “Resurrection Men” has been widely published back in the Old World. It implies that they discovered the secret of eternal life before they were destroyed. They say several noble families have hired mercenaries to come scour the ruins for the lost secret.

Jed and Trevor spent some time in the library, as well. Jed learned some things about the dwarves:

  • The dwarves didn’t trust paper. Their better books were etched metal. Their most precious tomes, like their spell books, were carved onto slabs of stone.
  • At the height of the empire, the dwarves claim to have mined both the heart of the earth and the stars themselves.

Trevor did pretty well, himself, for an apprentice, assisting with the search:

  • He stumbled across a description of a dwarven tower in the mountains, overlooking a tall stone bridge. Of those sent to examine it, many did not return. Those who did, said that the tower had no door that they could find. They also said that the tower was cursed with an aura of sickness, such that any who approached it fell deathly ill.
  • The dwarves used to get their water from a vast underground reservoir. They used to sail that subterranean sea and trade with strange creatures from beneath the earth.

Needles made the rounds of some of the more…. specialized… drinking establishments in Tembladera.

  • He found himself talking at one point with a scarred old veteran, who tells him that he used to be delver, too, until he tried to use an ice potion on a fire elemental. He learned that elementals aren’t physical creatures like a reasonable person would think. The way the clerics explained it to him, during his recovery, was that elementals are more philosophical objects than living beings, so they’re really only vulnerable to the element that opposes them.
    • This discussion was prompted by the new popular song around town, which talks about a legendary rogue who goes through gangs of goblins like a whirlwind, who successfully used an ice potion on men of fire. The veteran called shenanigans.
  • The nobles of Tembladera have put a bounty of 250sp on the head of Count Nalor the Thrice-Cursed, once a nobleman himself before he was declared an outlaw. He heads a band of bandits who hide out in the ruins.

What Happened:

The party took care of a fair amount of business in town. With the departure of Corbin, The Knight of the Blood Oath, there were a couple of holes in their lineup. They realized that their tactics, such as they are, would need to change. Furthermore, they thought that they could do with some non-potion healing. Thus, they went looking for some new guys.

Healing was easily obtained, in the person of Brother Farooq, a talented young medic and cleric. He was willing to take wages for his participation.

Next, they needed more muscle. After asking around, they found themselves interviewing two applicants in a shanty bar outside the walls. First was FuBar Bombad, a sewer troll “dancer”. He demonstrated the dance of his people, which involved leaping and bouncing all around the area and putting Jed into a demonstrative joint lock. He also explained that he was a simple creature, not so much interested in money, itself, and so he would join for a half-share, so long as the party helped to get him inside town, where the soft, clean beds lived.

The second applicant introduced himself as D’arth Loathing. He was wrapped from head to toe in a voluminous black robe, with a hood that covered most of his face. Despite moving like a vigorous warrior, he had the appearance of an elderly man who had been dead for several days. He declared himself to be a warrior and displayed a well-worn greatsword. He also declared himself to be an excommunicated demon-worshiper with certain unholy powers.

The party gravely considered the applicants, and decided they would rather go with the cheap, smelly acrobat over the anti-paladin with the spooky aura. Jed fast-talked the troll past the gate guards. That night, of course, both Alric and FuBar got themselves thrown out of town after a mutual faux pawhile carousing…

Later on during the week, Alric spent a day scoping out the terrain between Tembladera and the dungeon entrance, hoping to find a better route than the somewhat-circuitous road they had been taking. The main hope was that there might be a road that would allow the party to bring a cart, but the roughness of the land foiled that. The secondary goal of finding another way to enter the dungeon was more successful. Upon examination, Alric thought it might be possible to scale a mountainside, beat cross-country for a few hundred yards to the edge of a ravine, hike along the ravine for a bit, drop a rope, and descend onto the Great Bridge. This would bypass a good bit of dark dungeon hall.

Back in town, before their Saturn’s-Day departure, the party put their heads together. The map that Trevor found the week before had a reference to a bridge, and seemed to indicate treasure nearby. This brought up the story of the storeroom defended by a gang of animated stone statues, from a few trips back. Jed’s research indicated that such golems were pretty rugged, being made of animated stone, but not invulnerable. They weren’t, for instance, encased in orichalcum armor. The expectation of loot seemed high. The party determined to go statue hunting.

Needles took possession of the magic, armor-penetrating sword from the last trip, so he wasn’t worried about striking stone, but Alric didn’t want to blunt his good axe. He picked up an oversized maul more suitable for breaking rocks.

In all the excitement, nobody thought to invite Höss to come along.

The hike to the dungeon was uneventful. They “parked” their various mounts in the normal location, under the watchful eye of Dobby. Alric pointed out the cliff face that he propose scaling. Four of the five PCs looked it over, shrugged, and started in to free-climbing. Alric carried along Brother Farooq, but Jed was left to his own devices. For his part, he cast a Wall-Walker spell on himself and danced his way up the cliff, doing a soft-shoe past the others. Grumpy at having his pride bruised, FuBar snagged Jed’s belt with his chain to keep him from getting too much of a lead. At the top of the cliff, the party settled down for a quick rest. Alric offered around some questionable jerky. The others told him he could keep that goodness all to himself.

The barbarian took the lead in bushwhacking through the vines and scrub to the ridge line. At the top, they got a good look at the tower on the far side of the river. Jed called for a halt, then cast one of his new spells, producing a flying Wizard Eye to send across the way for a closer look.

The Eye approached, giving a better look at the tower’s design. It stood about sixty or eighty feet high, with a ring of standing stones at its top. There didn’t seem to be any obvious door, but there were arrow slits. As the Eye approached one of the arrow slits, it caught a quick glimpse of a humanoid figure in the shadows. It lifted a crossbow, then the Eye got a detailed close-up of a crossbow bolt, point-on…

When Jed jumped, Needles caught sight of an arrow flying from one of the tower’s windows, to arc down into the ravine.

Jed relayed what he had observed. Reactions were mixed: FuBar was all for an immediate assault on the place, while the others emphasized the stories of plague surrounding the place. It’s possible that FuBar was less concerned about such things, being pretty resistant to disease to begin with. At any rate, the party decided to continue with their original task. Alric watched the far side of the bridge for activity, seeing none, while Needles dropped to take a foothold on the bridge. The party descended in good order, unchallenged.

There, they formed up. FuBar enthusiastically trotted off towards the far side, taking point. This threw the whole marching order in disarray. Posy pointed out, as they entered the dungeon, that somehow she, the scout, had ended up pulling rear-guard with the hirelings and the wizard.

Jed, Needles, and the bulk of the entourage paused at the doorway to examine the treasure map. There was some confusion and argument at that point, since the map made mention of a door, but no door was apparent. Needles repeatedly searched for the concealed door that Jed insisted must be there. Posy finally pointed out the marks where there used to be a set of large hinges mounted on the wall. They decided a door must have hung in the doorway at some point in the past, and the map was simply talking about the hallway they were presently in.

Meanwhile, FuBar had just kept on putting one foot in front of the other. Finally feeling at home with the light levels, he removed his smoked goggles, and soon came to the right-hand turn up the stairs. (The hallways itself continued on.) The stairway was hung about with cloth, hides, chains, and other noisemakers, just as when the party first saw it.  Unsure of his next move, he shouted back to the others. This hurried them up, and soon the entire party was gathered at the foot of the stairs.

Once he had confirmation that their path led up the stairs, FuBar again bounded ahead, pushing noisily through the curtains. As he approached the first landing, the entire party heard a warning growl from further up the stairs. Thinking quickly, Alric made use of his mimicry skills, and growled back! This was enough to cow the dire wolves, which FuBar found on the first landing, cowering behind an overturned table.

When the party had last passed through, this landing had been set up as a guard post, with a couple of benches and a few other comforts for the goblinoids stationed there. This time, the only sign of goblinoids was the blood on the walls. (FuBar confirmed, by smell, that this was the blood of “short beef”, his pet term for goblins.)  The dire wolves had lost much of their morale. Clearly, some incident had occurred while the party was away.

Careful not to turn their backs or make any sudden moves, the party passed by the wolves with no violence. They continued up the second flight of stairs, finding themselves at a crossing of hallways. As before, there was a statue of a defeated, enslaved goblin, enchanted to give directions. Jed confirmed that speaking the word “treasure”, in Dwarvish, caused the statue to indicate the storeroom to the right.

The party moved to the big double doors down the hall in that direction. There, they girded themselves for battle. Alric traded his axe for his brand new maul. Jed cast a spell on the doors to make them transparent, to give the more nocturnal members of the group, at least, a better look at the scene. They reported that there were four statues of dwarves, each standing as tall as Alric, scattered around the room. Two were facing the door, while the other two were facing the other direction, some distance deeper within the chamber.

When all the prep was done, Posy threw open the doors. (They had her doing the job because they expected her arrows to be ineffective against things made entirely of stone.) She and Needles slipped through and took to the shadows while the rest of the party rushed in, raising a ruckus. They left Trevor and Brother Farooq standing watch at the door, but Trevor almost immediately entered the room, sticking close on Jed’s heels. This left Brother Farooq, an inexperienced healer, on watch.

Inside, the party engaged with the first golem while the others turned and moved in. FuBar entangled its weapon — an oversized maul, by coincidence — with his kusari, fouling both its parry and its main attack. Alric took advantage of the opening, and gave his best “John Henry” impression, using a rapid series of body blows. Jed threw his most explosive lightning bolt to date at the next-closest golem, only to see his target side-step it and keep on coming.

Thinking that perhaps she could find some weapon to turn against the golems, Posy began poking around in the crates that were scattered around the room. She was soon joined by Needles, once he decided that the rest of the party had the battle in hand.

As FuBar improved his hold on its weapon, the first golem switched tactics. It dropped the weapon, and switched to barehanded techniques. This wasn’t all that effective, and Alric reduced the construct to rubble, just in time to meet the next one. Jed began charging another missile spell, and instructed Trevor to start applying buff spells. The apprentice applied Armor, first to Alric, then to Jed — just in time, as it happened.

When the golem dropped his maul, FuBar didn’t want to take the time to free his kusari, so he dropped his weapon as well. Falling back and fast-drawing a shuriken, he looked over the battlefield. He figured his thrown weapons weren’t too likely to injure giant stone dwarves, and he noticed Needles and Posy poking through the loot before the monsters were down. This offended his bad temper. With a high-pitched, aggravated squeal, he flung the rusty bit of sharp iron at Posy!

Not to injure, of course. The weapon stuck in her pot helm, just jarring enough to draw her gaze. (And Needles’, as well.) FuBar delivered a rude gesture towards them. For his part, Needles was irritated that the new guy would be so cavalier with the possibility of injuring a more-senior member of the party. He ran over to smack the sewer troll in the back of the head, open-handed.

During all this amusing byplay, Alric was still turning big, carved dwarves into small-to-middlin’ boulders. He took a few blows, but was still cheerful, even though the last couple of golems started to crowd him a bit. They attempted to get the big man bracketed between them. While doing so, one of the golems noticed that Jed was flinging lightning around the place — missing, but still, lightning — and furthermore, that Jed didn’t seem to realize his peril. It sidled up close to him, while engaging Alric, then suddenly turned to strike at the lightly-armored mage!

Right around this point, the party was surprised to hear a scream from outside the door. The scream was cut off suddenly, making the party think of the halfling strangler they had met in the past. Being the closest PC without other responsibilities, Needles moved to the door to investigate.

As it happened, Jed opened the doors for him, as a solid torso blow from the golem’s maul threw him through them. He was badly wounded, but still fighting. Outside the door, they found Brother Farooq grappling with a zombie, while two others approached from behind. Needles moved to attack the zombies. Two of them went to work on Brother Farooq, taking him to the ground, biting him repeatedly in the face, and quickly rendering him unconscious. The third tried for Jed, who scrambled to his feet.

… just in time for the last golem to hit him directly on the top of his skull with a mighty strike from its maul. The damage was somewhat blunted by Jed’s just-purchased protective turban (made from the finest Corinthian giant-spider silk!) and Trevor’s protective spell. Still, it was more than enough to put him down (if not out) with a mortal wound.

Enraged, Alric made short work of the remaining, already-damaged golems, while Needles finished off the zombies. Trevor poured healing potions on his boss, but they weren’t going to fix his condition. Jed needed surgery, and the only available surgeon was Farooq, the man who had just had his face gnawed off by zombies. Things looked grim.

Their first plan was to get Farooq back on his feet, improve some surgical equipment, and have him do impromptu brain surgery right there on the dungeon floor. Alric lit a small fire and started assembling an absolutely horrifying assortment of small knives, bone needles, and fishhooks. Trevor and Needles used up the last of the party’s healing potions (and a couple of uses of Gizmo) to bring Farooq back to badly-wounded consciousness. When they explained the plan, he announced there was no way it would work: the best he could hope to accomplish under those conditions would be to torture Jed for a little while before finally killing him.

Still, the healer confirmed, to wait was to condemn him to slow death.

At this, Alric took control of the situation. Pulling out his rope, he rapidly wove a sling to carry Jed and Brother Farooq. He threw them over his back and left at a sprint. He retraced their steps, returning to the Great Bridge and scaling the cliff on the other side. (Yes, there were mentions of the Cliffs of Insanity, among the cheers.) He ran cross-country to the ridge above their “parking spot”. As he climbed down, he yelled for Dobby to saddle the war-cat and get out of the way!

Startled but game, Dobby got Alric’s big cat ready to go just in time. The big barbarian jumped into the saddle, throwing the wounded over the cat’s back, and took the reins. “We ride!” he shouted, as they bounded off towards town.

Remember back at the beginning of the week, when Alric went and scouted out alternate routes to the dungeon?  He didn’t find any that could support a cart… but he did gain familiarity with the cross-country route. Thus, after a wild, hour-long ride, they arrived back at town. The wounded pair were handed off to the hospital maintained by The Church.

Meanwhile, back at the dungeon, the rest of the party dug in to the loot. What they found wasn’t quite the riches they had expected. They uncovered about forty crates of dwarvish iron rations, still edible after who-knows-how-many decades. They found several bronze war hammers and quite a few pieces of serviceable bronze armor. They gathered several hundred pounds of scrap iron and bronze, from the leftover bits of tools that had lost their wooden and leather parts to decay. The most exciting finds were a bunch of alchemists’ fire grenades and one knockout gas grenade.

Needles checked out the rest of the room, discovering a back door, locked. This wasn’t much of an obstacle to an experienced picker of locks, and so Needles discovered that it was a door into the rear of the large room they had seen before, with the opening to the “pit of darkness” shaft. The one full of undead and demons of darkness. Curiosity sated, he closed the door. Then made sure it was re-locked.

Despite Posy’s attempts to improve a sled, the party just didn’t have the muscle to cart out all the booty. They picked out select pieces — the grenades, the armor, some of the weapons — and left the rest behind closed doors, hoping to come back and find it undisturbed. They left following the same route as Alric, just slower, until returning to the campsite. There, they met up with Dobby and the mounts, and returned to town at a more leisurely pace.

Once in town, they realized that their normal loot-disposal method wasn’t going to work with Jed down. Instead, Needles took the proceeds around to his own set of fences. After expenses, each share was enough to show a profit.

Alric was unanimously voted the winner of the Cool Point, for excellent all-around teamwork, particularly his wild rescue ride.

 

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